I woke up this morning did something I don’t usually do — I turned on the TV. My husband, who had been up until about 3 am watching CNN told me what had happened in Boston: that the suspected bombers had gone on a rampage, one of them had been killed, and that the entire city was on lock-down as police searched for the second suspect. It was shocking news and I felt an uncontrollable need to watch cable news. My five-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter, both of who cannot resist a screen, sat down and watched with me.
We’re a newsy family. We still get the paper and my husband goes through parts of it with the kids in the morning as they eat their breakfast. I can’t stand commercial radio, so we always listen to the CBC in the car. My children know Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer by name. When the kids were smaller, I thought they weren’t paying attention to the radio news, until my then six-year-old daughter told me that she was worried that the 2011 tsunami in Japan would distract the media from the war in Libya. Oops, I thought, feeling guilty that I’d exposed my baby to the ugliness of the world, but also proud that she knew so much about Middle Eastern politics.
Of course, parenting is a constant tight-rope walk between being overly cautious and recklessly permissive and I’m still not sure how to balance my own thirst for news and need to stay engaged with the larger world with my impulse to protect my kids from information that may needlessly scare them. This week has been a tough one — there’s the situation in Boston, earthquakes in Iran, the ongoing struggle over gun control in the United States, a number of celebrity deaths… all things that can scare the pants off of a little kid. My daughter is particularly sensitive and always asks the question “could this happen here?” How do I tell her that the answer is “probably not, but maybe yes?”
We may be immune to tsunamis, but Boston could happen where we live in Calgary. Newtown could happen here. Lots of other things I can’t even imagine could happen here. As I write this, the authorities are still looking for the Boston suspect, but it seems like there’s nothing specific to Boston that motivated these guys to do such unthinkable things. All I can say is “this can happen anywhere, but it doesn’t happen very often. All we can do is not let it stop us from going out and doing the things we do.”
And that’s all we can do. I turn down the radio news if they’re talking about sexual assault or child pornography, because I’m not ready to have those kinds of conversations yet. But when news is as big as the Boston bombings or something like September 11th, I think it’s best to let them be informed and give them the tools to be empathetic but strong enough to carry on with their lives.
So, what do you do when it comes to this kind of news? Do you block it out or expose your kids to harsh realities?